Who are the people shaping Australia’s cultural heartland? In January, we start counting down the Top 10 Most Powerful People in Melbourne. Here, Andrew Crook presents the shortlist …

Andrew Demetriou

As the intimidating head of the most powerful sport in the nation’s most sports mad city, Demetriou drives a hard bargain — whether its player payments, TV rights or disciplining betting cheats. He’s “a master of his domain”, says a prominent radio broadcaster. A domain, it seems, that’s ever expanding and grabbing eyeballs by the bucketload.

Andrew McConnell, Chris Lucas and the Melbourne foodie mafia

The soft spoken McConnell packs a punch when Melbourne’s massive foodie tribe starts salivating. With three top shelf establishments and more to come, McConnell and contemporaries like Pearl and Chin Chin owner Chris Lucas have fixed a hex on inner-suburban wallets. “Restaurants are the new theatre”, says McConnell, and his rat pack’s jus is smothered all over Melbourne’s p(a)late.

Bill Oliver

Oliver can shut down construction sites in a flash and his band of hi-vis CFMEU hardmen are marching firmly in tune. While his mainstream union rivals take the low road, Oliver is on hand to extract cold hard cash from tight-fisted builders who’d really prefer a new Lexus. Foreign multinationals looking to build that next piece of Melburnian infrastructure should think twice. There will be blood.

Bill Shorten

From slathering Monash Uni’s Menzies Building in ALP propaganda, to his controversial Maribyrnong preselection triumph and his marriage to the Governor-General’s daughter, Shorten has been at the centre of Victorian union power in four different decades. There’s only ever been one direction for Shorten, and that’s straight to the Lodge, which he dreams of sidling into when the renos are complete. Will triangulate as Workplace Relations Minister to keep the powerful onside, and to bolster his own power.

Greg Davies

As Steve Bracks knows, the Police Association can make or break state governments with a well-timed strike but it’s been Davies’ dogged determination to get into the popular media — nary a day goes by without a Herald Sun pull-quote — that marks him as a worthy successor to Paul Mullett. Davies was the crucial link man in Sir Ken Jones’ manoeuvring around the Simon Overland departure and regularly liaised with disgraced former Peter Ryan adviser Tristan Weston. “He plays it down, but he’s a serious kingpin,” says one Victorian opposition MP. We agree.

Harold Mitchell

He might bear only a passing resemblance to his pre-lap band self on the cover of autobiography Living Large, but the veteran ad-man’s impact is getting bigger and bigger. With 400 staff and a $363 million merger with global ad giant Aegis in the bank, the affable Mitchell commands respect, whether tipping cash into culture and the arts, serving on the boards of the orchestra, the arts festival and the museums cheering the Melbourne Rebels over the line. He’s also Melburnian of the Year.

Helen Silver

Ted Baillieu’s right hand woman reigns over the Department of Premier and Cabinet, a bolstered role ever since her inimitable predecessor Terry Moran shot to prominence under Steve Bracks. A Productivity Commission guru who did time in the private sector at NAB, Silver has carried on Moran’s reform legacy and emerged as a key Ted confident. If the premier decides to roll out the tanks in 2012, Silver will be marshalling the troops deep inside the VPS bunker.

Jeff Kennett

We had to put him on — the shockwaves from his time as a leader hell bent on reform ripple to this day. But is he still powerful? You bet he is. Jeff’s byline appears in the city’s biggest paper, his voice on its loudest radio station and his shorn head at every other ribbon cutting. Controversial (just ask the gay community) and as brash as ever, his just-completed term as president has left Hawthorn healthy with silverware on the mantelpiece. Still a force.

*Read the full story at The Power Index